An end and a beginning…
RESOLVE (from dictionary.com):
Noun: A firm determination to do something.
Verb: 1. To settle or find a solution to (a problem, dispute, or contentious matter)
2. To decide firmly on a course of action.
I have never really gotten into making New Year’s resolutions. They stress me out a little. I have tried to make resolutions, but I usually fail within the first week, if not the first couple days. This is probably because the days leading up to January 1st are usually crammed full of indulging in whatever it is I plan to give up or change. As I anticipate the day that the changes are supposed to start, I want to soak in the moments where I am allowed to eat all the sweets I want, be as lazy as I want, or avoid responsibility altogether.
I indulge with an imitation freedom. I tell myself something like, “This will be changing in 2 days, so live it up now.” It feels a little freeing in the moment. For a short period of time, I allow myself to have no boundaries or restrictions.
I run forward in arm-stretched-wide freedom, refusing to acknowledge that I am really running deeper into a cage and further from freedom.
God gave us rules. He called them laws and he calls them love. God gave us boundaries to protect us, not cage us. Yet the temptation is to sit within His loving boundaries and gaze beyond the fence. Satan puts up these beautiful mirages, trying to lure us out of the boundaries. The longer we stare at the mirage, an untruth begins to weave itself into our hearts, slowly convincing us that we are currently in a cage, that freedom lies in giving in to our desires, instead of saying “no” for the 100th time today.
When we are told “no” or tell ourselves “no,” but keep gazing toward the thing we can not have, the chains of whatever sin we battle have not been fully broken. We may not be caged any longer, but we are still bound by some level of power that the sin has over us.
The only way to experience total freedom is to turn toward God. Jesus already broke the chains for us, but as long as we keep our attention on whatever bound us, our foe has a level of power to leverage.
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened AGAIN by a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1, emphasis mine).
I have a confession. I long for freedom. Sometimes I feel that my longing for freedom goes beyond what the average person experiences. “Freedom” has been that word that always stirs my heart. I am starting to realize why that may be.
Here is the confession. Most of the time, I think I make wise choices out of sheer obedience and not because my heart has actually turned toward God on a matter. I see the value in choosing God’s way, but I think too often, I fail to turn my gaze. My actions turn, by my heart does not always follow.
Maybe you do not see the problem with this, like I do. On the outside, I may be making good choices, but in my heart and mind, I am not totally free. I am still giving too much attention to the thing I said “no” to. As long as my heart and mind are on the “thing,” I am as good as chained and caged.
“But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaved to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness” (Romans 6:17-18).
“When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:20-23).
Slave of God. Now that is an interesting term. None of us wants to be a slave. A slave is not free. A slave is bound to his/her master.
Many have fallen for the trap that if they choose not to be a slave of God, then they are choosing freedom. However, the freedom they cling to is an impostor. It is an illusion of freedom that leads to being caged and ultimately death.
The reality is: we are all slaves. We can not shake loose of that reality. The amount of freedom we experience will be determined by who our master is. If we think we are our own master, then sin is really our master because apart from the redemptive power of Jesus, we are all slaves to sin. If sin is our master, death is our reward. However, if we have chosen to let God be our Master, we experience real freedom and begin tasting eternal life now as he draws us more and more into his presence and holiness.
Even though God is in the process of making me more like himself: holy, there is still something about being told, “you can’t,” that makes me want to even more. This is a timeless wrestle. (See Romans 7:8, 7:15-16)
Not only does setting a resolution increase my desire to do the thing I am hoping to change, but resolutions also feel a little like I am setting myself up for failure. Will I really be able to do what I want to do? The writer of Romans says, “no.”
“For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing” (Romans 7:18-19)
But here is my hope:
“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (2 Peter 1:3).
So do you want to join me in NOT making resolutions this year?
I have decided that the only course of action that will make any difference heading into the new year, is to resolve to draw nearer to God. Apart from him, we can do no good thing. With him, we can scale any mountain, we can overcome any trial, obstacle, addiction, bad habit, etc. I would rather let God work out some kinks as we journey through 2014, rather than trying to iron them all out on my own. I know the things that I want to change. God knows the things that he wants to change. It sounds nicer to let him be in charge.
“Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:5-6).
Here’s to a year of LIFE and PEACE and FREEDOM.